Making Mexico Pay

It's both fair and straightforward to make Mexico pay for the Wall.

Trump's whirlwind opening days in office have left the media completely out of breath trying to keep up.  We never thought we would live to see a day where a President not only is determined to try to actually fulfill his election promises, he wants to make a down-payment on each and every one of them in his first fortnight!

However, we can't help but recall President Obama's equivalent: he quickly signed an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay.  Eight years later, he's now the ex-President and Guantanamo Bay is still right where it's been, housing dangerous illegal enemy combatants secure from the evil hands of ACLU lawyers.

As President Trump knows very well, simply signing a piece of paper is just that - a piece of paper.  A President can say anything he likes; transforming his words into action is another matter entirely.

Who Says, and Who Pays

Mr. Trump's signature issue, the famous Wall on our southern border, provides an illustration.  Donald Trump has ordered that planning and construction on the wall begin immediately.

He's the President, and he has the power to command this.  He even has the money: ten years ago Congress passed a law authorizing the wall, and there's money lying around in various places.  There might not be enough money to finish the job, but there's certainly plenty to get the ball rolling.  It would be much easier to strong-arm Congress into shelling out to finish a wall already actively under construction, than yet another promised pipe-dream.

In theory, it shouldn't matter: Mr. Trump has promised since Day One that he'll make Mexico pay for it.  The Mexican government, as you might expect, is equally adamant that they won't.  Indeed, the Mexican president cancelled a planned meeting with President Trump over disagreement on just this issue - though to be fair, Mr. Trump publicly said that's what he ought to do.

Is Donald Trump somehow going to get Mexican President Nieto to show up on the White House lawn with a giant Ed McMahon check for twenty billion dollars or whatever the cost turns out to be?  Of course not - any president of Mexico or any other country who even considered doing such a thing would not merely be howled from office, they'd be tarred, feathered, strung up from the nearest lamppost, set alight, and then drawn and quartered.  Mr. Trump knows this perfectly well, as does President Nieto.  So do the media, which gives them all the excuse they need to ridicule Mr. Trump as a blowhard.

But, as Mr. Trump has pointed out repeatedly, there are many ways to "make Mexico pay" short of getting an actual check.  One fairly harmless approach would be for us to simply stop giving Mexico money: the U.S. gives Mexico tens of billions in foreign aid every year.  All Mr. Trump needs to do is zero out the Mexico foreign-aid budget for 2018 and recategorize the funds as "Wall Building Money!"  Mexico pays.  Mission accomplished.

That seems a bit too pat, though.  We don't have any need for a wall on our northern border because our Canadian friends do a fairly good job of keeping undesirables away from it, the occasional exception notwithstanding.  Mexico has a responsibility to make itself sufficiently desirable that millions of its citizens won't risk their lives to get away; what's more, Mexico also has a responsibility to prevent people of other countries from using Mexico as a transitway to illegally reach the United States.

Is that too much to ask of a third-world country?  Not at all: For fifty years, Cubans have exploited a quirk in our regulations whereby they will not be deported if they can set foot on American soil.  Countless thousands of them have escaped to whatever South American country was most convenient, then hoofed it the rest of the way across our border.

Such people are illegal immigrants not only to the United States, but to Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, and all the way around however far they came.  Yet none of these countries minded the technical violation of their laws because they were just passing through.  Mexico even would give them a helping hand on their trek, securely confident that, once they waved goodbye from the other side of the Rio Grande, they'd never have to deal with them again.

On his way out the door, President Obama abruptly cancelled this policy: now Cuban illegals will be just as illegal as any other illegal immigrant.

What was Mexico's reaction?  In less than a week, they started deporting Cubans that hadn't made it all the way.  This isn't enough time for police work or set up stings: it proves they already knew where all those illegals who were intending to break American law were, they just didn't care.  Only when it became their problem did they feel moved to do anything, and they did it with utmost dispatch.

The Polluter Pays

If Mexico can instantly round up and dispose of dozens of illegal foreigners who've successfully trekked thousands of miles, it ought to be able to keep its own citizens on their own side of the fence.  The fact that Mexico can but won't do this makes it eminently fair that Mexico and Mexicans should pay the cost of doing what Mexico should have been doing all along.

But the suggestion put forward by Trump spokesman Sean Spicer - slapping a massive tariff on Mexican imports - is not the right answer.  Who's buying those Mexican imports?  That's right - Americans.  A tariff is a sales tax paid for by Americans, which defeats the whole point.

Why would Mr. Trump want to do that, when there's a far more just solution immediately to hand?  Mexican citizens working in the United States send $25 billion back to Mexico every year - curiously, just about the cost of the wall.

Now, some of these Mexican wage-earners are here legally and the money is rightfully theirs.  A vast number, of course, are here illegally, so this money is money stolen from the American workers who would otherwise have had the jobs they wrongfully filled, or who would have built the machines which replace them, or designed those machines... you get the point.

All Mr. Trump has to do is to slap a tax - shall we say, 20%? - on financial remittances to Mexico, and to other countries that produce illegal immigrants in large numbers while we're at it.  By our calculations that should more than pay for the Wall by the time he's out of office.

Best of all, it will have been paid for by the very people who are wrongfully profiting by its absence.  What could be more fair than that?

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Immigration.
Reader Comments

"We don't have any need for a wall on our northern border because our Canadian friends do a fairly good job of keeping undesirables away from it..."

Not exactly. The US and Canada have similar cultures, economies, a common language, and a legal system heritage from Britain. Their currencies are relatively stable, compared to each other. In other words, we are both 1st world nations, with a great relationship, most of the time. We don't need a border wall. In fact, until Bush, we only needed a driver's license to cross that border, that's how friendly and casual we were.

Our neighbor to the south, however, is another story entirely. Corrupt, violent, and clannish, Mexico is a 3rd world disaster that constantly seeks to use the US border as a socioeconomic safety valve. When the wall gets built, the valve closes and the pressure builds. That place is ripe for revolution.

February 7, 2017 2:54 PM

@Blank Reg - you are very right, albeit politically incorrect. These videos support your point: shows migrants rioting in Paris, and shows that most liberal arguments in favor of unrestricted immigration are lies.

February 7, 2017 6:10 PM
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